What are the best electric guitars for intermediate players?
It can be like finding a needle in a haystack. With so many poor guitars infiltrating the market, it’s hard to pick the good from the bad.
An intermediate guitar is a difficult precedent. On one hand, you want something that’ll outperform a beginner’s choice. But you don’t want a stop-gap guitar that’ll need upgrading in no time.
So you want a guitar that even the pros love to play with lasting durability. Sounds expensive, doesn’t it?
What if I said some guitars do this at an affordable price?
It’s taken plenty of research, but lucky for you I’m here to lay it all out.
So let’s find out the best intermediate electric guitars available today.
The Best Electric Guitars for Intermediate Players
- PRS SE Standard 24 – Editor’s Pick
- Epiphone Les Paul Studio – Best Single Cut
- ESP LTD EC-256 – Best for Metal
- Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Stratocaster – Best for Blues
- Ibanez Steve Vai Signature JEMJR – Best for Shredding
- Sterling by Music Man JP70 – Best 7-String
- Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster – Best for Country
- Ibanez S521 – Best for Small Hands
- Epiphone SG Standard – Best for Classic Rock
- Epiphone ES-335 – Best Semi-Hollow Body
PRS SE Standard 24 – Editor’s Pick
For more information, check out my guide on the Best PRS Guitars
This was a tough decision, but the PRS SE Standard 24 sneaks the crown as my editor’s choice.
So why does it deserve such an accolade?
The versatility of the PRS SE Standard 24 makes it ideal for an intermediate player. If you’re undecided about whether to go for an Epiphone or Fender, this guitar gives you the best of both worlds.
Most guitars will have either single-coil pickups or humbucker pickups. If you’re unsure what this means. Simply put, humbuckers are two single-coil pickups aligned together.
It can be a deciding factor in picking your guitar. Should you opt for single-coil or humbucker pickups? It’s a choice between a thin bright sound and a thick powerful one. But what if you want both?
A particular selling point is these humbuckers that can shift into single-coil pickups. All you have to do is engage the push-pull feature on the tone knob.
This means you can have the twang of a Strat and the thickness of a Les Paul at your fingertips.
Updated in 2018, the 85/15 “S” pickups model themselves on the US-built 85/15’s. The likeness is close so you can expect an articulate modern tone rich in precision.
The mahogany body complements the rosewood fingerboard for heightened durability. The material list also serves for improved playability. The ease of play is an experience to behold.
As you riff away, the notes won’t lose clarity even at the 24th fret. By the way, an owl inlay is there to greet you at this point—-and it looks cool! And this deserves a special mention, all fret markers are in the shape of birds. It’s a unique touch that’ll make you stand out from the crowd.
Best of all—all this at an affordable price. I’m more than happy to recommend the PRS SE Standard 24. As an intermediate player, you’ll have a world of opportunity at your fingertips.
- Tremolo bar
- Versatility in tones
- 85/15 “S” pickup quality
- Rosewood fretboard with bird inlays
- Loss of tune after heavy tremolo use
Epiphone Les Paul Studio – Best Single-Cut Guitar for Intermediate Players
As you cast eyes over this guitar, it’ll be love at first sight. With its timeless shape, the Epiphone Les Paul guitar is a thing of beauty.
It’s made to last with a material list that could be mistaken for a guitar retailing at double the price. Mahogany body and neck with a maple top you can expect durability for years to come.
The fingerboard is pure luxury. With a 60s profile SlimTaper neck, and a fingerboard that pleads for you to break into a solo. This is a guitar that wouldn’t be out of place slung around a pro on some of the biggest stages in the world.
The Les Paul is a guitar steeped in rock-and-roll folklore. Slash, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton are iconic users. The Alnico Classic humbuckers will go a long way to replicate similar rock-and-roll snarl.
But there’s a versatility to the soundscape of these pickups. As easy as you can heavy shredding, you can have a smooth and silky tone that belongs in a jazz bar.
If you’re in the market for a solid body single cut guitar, this should be on your radar. The Epiphone Les Paul falls in an intermediate price range, but everything about it screams pro. It looks the part; it plays the part, and it sounds the part.
- Classic Les Paul shape
- Durable mahogany body
- Alnico Classic humbuckers
- Playability of the 60s SlimTaper Neck
- Heavy on the shoulder
For more recommendations, check out our guide on the Best Les Paul Style Guitars
ESP LTD EC-256 – Best Intermediate Guitar for Metal
It’s time to get your metal on. When rocking out, you want a guitar that’ll sustain the notes of your high gain riffs.
That’s exactly what the ESP LTD Eclipse EC-256 does. The set-in mahogany neck delivers way more vibrational transfer than bolt-on designs. So you’ll have a sound perfect for metal with its fast attack and a long sustain.
If truth be told, every tiny detail of this guitar will meet your metal needs.
The mahogany body has a deep sharp single cut giving you unobstructed access to the high frets. The arched top heightens playability, comforting your hand as you shred.
As the Editors pick, there’s a coil-split option. But there are slight differences in tone. Every sound setting screams metal vibes.
You have the bright bridge tone that chimes. Perfect for the subtle picked chords interlude found in metal.
But we know what succeeds the quiet interlude. It’s time to headbang!
By engaging both humbuckers, you can launch into a full mid-range assault with the flick of a switch.
This guitar can travel through all the dynamic transformations that are the staple of a metal anthem.
The LTD EC-256 takes all the best aspects of high-end EC models and offers them at an affordable price. It’s a guitar designed to transcend every facet of the rock genre, and it does so in an attractive-looking package.
- High sustain
- Aggressive tone
- Dual ESP humbucking pickups
- Mahogany body and neck with jatoba fingerboard
- Genre specific design limits versatility
For more recommendations, check out our guide on the Best Electric Guitars for Metal
Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Stratocaster – Best Intermediate Guitar for Blues
When playing the blues, you’ll want a delicious warm sound to resonate from your guitar. A sound that was born from the golden era of guitar manufacturing—the 50s.
So why not get a Stratocaster from the 1950s? Well, let’s say that vintage guitars don’t fall in an intermediate price range.
So how do you get the timeless sound, what’s the next best thing to the original?
It seems you’re not alone in your search for a retro sound at an affordable price. And when there’s a demand in the market—-manufacturers get to work.
By using modern manufacturing techniques and a vintage blueprint. Manufacturers can produce affordable guitars, but with all the features of vintage greats.
The Stratocaster or Strat as it’s known has become the very definition of the electric guitar. First released in the 1950s, they saw the Strat as an evolution to the Telecaster.
By canvassing opinions of guitar players, the timeless design was born. The Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Stratocaster has a body that’s identical to the original. The contoured shape is pure comfort underneath your arm.
The fretboard edges are smooth, and with a thin high gloss neck, you’ll slide through the 12-bar blues like seasoned blues greats from the South.
Three great-sounding pickups add a snap to every note. It’s a beautiful blue sounding guitar offering a warm bite to every lick.
A special mention has to go to the vintage tuners and pegs. Not only do they look awesome, but the functionality means you can change strings fast.
The Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Stratocaster is a modern take on a classic. While it might miss the vintage nuances of an original. It’s the ideal affordable option to bend and slide your way around the blues.
It’s the very embodiment of a modern classic guitar.
- 50s Strat design
- Vintage-style tremolo
- Distinctive Strat sound
- Easy to play narrow frets
- Fender Alnico single-coil pickups
- Low sustain
For more recommendations, check out our guide on the Best Electric Guitars for Blues
Ibanez Steve Vai Signature JEMJR – Best Intermediate Guitar for Shredding
Are you a guitar virtuoso ready to shred like the best? It’s one of the guitar’s most difficult techniques, so you’ll need a guitar to make life easy.
So what’s the best guitar for shredding?
Look no further than the Ibanez Steve Vai Signature JEMJR.
Steve Vai is a guitarist who has become synonymous with the shred. Complex techniques like tapping conjure up images of Vai and his flamboyant style.
Eager to suit his every need, Vai began creating his guitars. He’d do so by picking the best bits from different models. At the start, it was for personal gratification. This was until Ibanez jumped on board.
And I’m glad they did! Because here we are with the Steve Vai Signature JEMJR. It’s every bit the Frankenstein of guitars created by a mad scientist.
Let’s dissect this monster to see what makes it so special.
Anyone who has heard Steve Vai will know he is a fan of the whammy bar. Is there a guitarist out there that can resist a play on a whammy bar? It’s fun! But what better way to ruin the entertainment than your guitar dropping out of tune.
Steve Vai understood this and wanted you to party on. So what did he do? The double-locking bridge. You can scoop the whammy until your heart’s content without droppings in tune.
A standout feature of this guitar is its neck. The Wizard III neck is a speed demon’s dream. It’s thin and plays with lightning-fast performance.
One look at the JEMJR, you’ll recognize it as a guitar of great diversity and personality. It’s very much an amalgamation of features in a modern package.
A further signature feature comes in the way of the monkey handle on the body. You won’t find this on another guitar.
There’s no doubt this guitar will divide opinions but if you connect with it. You’ll be grasping that handle post shred and raising it high above your head in celebration.
- Iconic Steve Vai design
- Unique handle on the body
- Wizard III neck for fast playing
- Tonal aggression from Quantum pickups
- Double locking bridge for optimal whammy bar use
- The distinctive design might not have universal appeal
For more recommendations, check out our guide on the Best Electric Guitars for Shredding
Sterling by Music Man JP70 – Best 7-String Intermediate Electric Guitar
Now the concept of a 7-string guitar might be completely new to you. You may even be very quick to dismiss it. But when you understand it a little more, it may sway your opinion.
A 7-string guitar, as with the JP70 7, adds a bass string onto the guitar. When does this come in handy?
If you’re playing barre chords, you can expect extra oomph. The added low end makes 7 strings guitars a favorite amongst metalheads. And this the market the JP70 7-String looks to entice.
So you’ve got an extra string for bolder power chords, what else could you need? An endorsement from John Petrucci of Dream Theater maybe?
A listen to a Dream Theater record tells you all need to know about what to expect from this guitar. Bold and brash high-output pickups will meet heavy demands.
The Sterling by Music Man John Petrucci JP70 replicates all the design features of the Music Man JP7. But as an intermediate, I doubt you’ll have a few thousand bucks to spare.
And this is where the JP70 has you covered.
7 strings rarely come cheap. But with this guitar, you’ve got an entry into the world of 7-string at an affordable price.
- Modern tremolo bar
- John Petrucci endorsed
- High output HH pickups
- Entry-level 7-string guitar
- Die-cast locking tuning machines
- 7-strings aren’t for everyone
For more recommendations, check out our guide on the Best 7 String Electric Guitars
Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster – Best Intermediate Guitar for Country
They don’t make them like they used to. Well, Squire has come close!
The Telecaster is one of the most celebrated guitars in the instrument’s history. Leo Fender first introduced the Telecaster in 1951—and it’s not looked back since.
Look at users of the Telecaster and it’s a who’s who of icons. Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, Springsteen, and Dylan are a few names from a pool of greats.
But the Telecaster is nowhere more prominent than in the world of country music. And it’s not only the likes of Brad Paisley and Keith Urban that use this classic guitar. If you’re a guitar geek, you may notice Nashville’s finest session musicians are avid users.
So what makes country guitarists levitate towards the Telecaster?
It’s all about the twang.
Fingerpicking, string bends, and slides are a mainstay in country music. These methods mixed with a Telecaster guitar? You’ve got the raw ingredients of the Nashville sound.
The Classic Vibe 50s serves that legendary Tele Twang to perfection. You can thank the pine body and Fender-designed alnico single-coil pickups for this.
The Squire Classic Vibe ’50s is a celebration of a great guitar. But it has the affordability and reliability that doesn’t come from originals.
On a small budget, the Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster will tap into the iconic Tele sound. Your next stop—-the Grand ‘Ole Opry.
- Vintage appointments
- Classic Telecaster sound
- Comfortable 9.5″ radius fingerboard
- Fender-designed alnico single-coil pickups
- Pine Body, Maple Neck, Maple Fingerboard
- Pro set up advised for heightened performance
Ibanez S521 – Best Intermediate Electric Guitar for Small Hands
Your small hands shouldn’t impede you from playing music. That said, long fingers are a massive benefit to a guitarist. Search Eric Clapton and you’ll see lengthy fingers destined to riff the guitar.
If you’ve got small hands and fingers, you may have to put in the extra time and effort to reach those heights. It didn’t stop guitar greats like Angus Young!
There are a few things you can do. Stretching your fingers can improve flexibility. Using a lighter gauge string can make sure you have to apply less pressure on the frets.
But one of the biggest factors will be to ensure you’re comfortable with the guitar you’re playing. If you’re finding it difficult, the Ibanez S521 S could make your life a lot easier.
First, you’ve got the jumbo frets. These will give more room to maneuver and plant your fingers inside the frets.
Then there’s the Ibanez Wizard III maple neck. The thickness at the first fret is a mere 19mm. Traveling along the frets at the twelfth fret, it only increases 2 mm to 21mm. The Wizard III is a thin neck that’s designed with playability and comfort in mind.
The S521 is a light guitar, but this doesn’t compromise tone and sustain. If your hands are small, this guitar will ensure playing isn’t harder than it should be. It’s a leader in responsiveness and comfort.
The best thing is—all of this playability and tone is at a price point within reach of intermediate guitarists.
- Jumbo frets
- Wizard III neck
- Quantum (H) pickups
- Fret buzz reported
For more recommendations, check out our guide on the Best Guitars for Small Hands
Epiphone SG Standard – Best Intermediate Electric Guitar for Classic Rock
Classic rock. Is there anything better? It’s a sound that’ll never grow old and you want a piece of the action.
So what’re the criteria for a classic rock guitar.
You’ll want it sounding hot. Twin Alnico Classic PRO humbuckers bring the storm that’ll tear off the roof. These pickups go a long way to bringing the classic rock tone of the 70s.
Combine the humbuckers with a solid mahogany body and neck you’ve got vintage warmth to boot.
It’s not all about warmth and fullness of sound. You’ll need some punch and clarity in those riffs. The Indian laurel fingerboard supplies bite and definition to work alongside the heat.
The SG is a unique sounding guitar and one that has become the backbone in some of rocks biggest anthems. From AC/DC to Black Sabbath, there’s no denying that the SG has found its way into rock folklore.
Its body shape is cool and one of the most recognizable of all time. Wearing it will have you oozing attitude and swagger.
The Epiphone SG standard has all the attributes that made the SG a classic. They build the hardware to last, and this is an affordable way to get involved in the action.
It’s a guitar of quality and with an unmistakable tone that’s bound to bring the rock to your guitar playing.
- Solid hardware
- Classic SG body shape
- 70’s warm and bite tone
- Reports of loose jack connection
Epiphone ES-335 – Best Semi-Hollow Body Intermediate Guitar
The Epiphone ES-335 is a fitting tribute to one of the finest guitars the world has ever seen. The Gibson semi-hollow body ES-355 is a guitar famed for quality and performance. Since 1958 it has been the go-to semi-hollow bodied guitar.
So the Epiphone ES-335 has a lot to live up to.
And live up to the expectation it does. This Epiphone offers the illustrious history of a Gibson. All at an affordable price point. If you want a semi-hollow guitar—this is your one.
The image of a semi-hollow body slung around the neck of The Beatles, BB King is an image worth replicating. The Epiphone ES-355 can make your dream come true.
It’s not all image though. There’s a reason the greats from old and new use this guitar. It’s the rich and timeless sound that has a lot to do with it being a favorite.
The Epiphone ES-335 sounds amazing. A maple body and tone block go a long way to produce sustain, warmth, and resonance. The key ingredients that make players crave that semi-hollow sound.
You can expect vintage infused tones thanks to the Alnico Classic PRO humbuckers. And here’s the thing. They offer a near-identical sound to the more expensive Gibson ’57 Classic pickup.
For a big-bodied guitar, it’s comfortable and easy to play. The regal qualities of this guitar can daunt. But don’t be afraid. The laurel-capped “C” shaped neck ensures effortless playability.
Price needn’t stand in the way of you owning a semi-hollow bodied guitar thanks to Epiphone. You’ll own the stage with the ES-335. With its jaw-dropping beauty and eye-catching detail, it ticks all boxes.
- Maple body and center block
- Modeled on the Gibson ES-355
- Alnico Classic PRO humbuckers
- Distinctive rock and blues tone from the ’50s or ’60s
- Good hardware (Graph Tech NuBone nut and Epiphone Deluxe tuners)
- Intermediate players may take time to get used to playing a semi-hollow guitar
For more recommendations, check out our guide on the Best Semi-Hollow Body Guitars
How to Choose The Best Intermediate Electric Guitar – Buyer’s Guide
Materials & Build Quality
Inspecting a guitar is an arduous task if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
But what if you’re confused by the mountain of information?
As a rule of thumb, American-made guitars will use peak materials. They’ll also age wood for long periods. This ensures the guitar will be stable and durable for years to come.
The problem being, you must pay for the privilege.
So when buying cheaper guitars. Check the wood that American manufacturers use. If you find guitars made from similar materials—this is a good starting point.
Chinese manufacturers can be less reliable. That said, there are many great Chinese made guitars including some on this list. For more on Chinese guitars, check out this article.
Be wary of fake guitars, these will offer nothing in the way of build quality. The best way to dodge this bullet is to buy from trustworthy websites.
All links on GuitarAdvise.com go to reputable sellers. This way you know you’ll get a genuine article with the heightened build quality. They’ll also have favorable return policies should the guitars not meet your demands.
The body is the most instant and eye-catching component of a guitar. You’ll wear it like you do a coat, so you need a guitar that you like the look of.
It’s also worth considering features like pickups, selection switches, and whammy bars. What must your ideal guitar have on the body? This will help whittle down your options.
But if you’re unsure, pop into your local shop and try potential suitors for size. Feel is important when choosing a guitar so ensure you’re at comfort with the body.
If you like the look of the body and find it comfortable to play—you’ve found your perfect match.
Playability refers to the comfort of the neck in your hand. How easy do you find it to shape chords and hit notes? The easier you find it is the better the playability.
You may hear lots of people refer to a guitar’s action. Action can play a big role in playability. This is how high the strings rest above the fretboard.
The guitar’s neck will vary from brand to brand, and you must find one to suit you. There’s no one size fits all approach. Some may find slimmer necks easier to navigate. Others may find broader necks less delicate simpler to handle.
You may find a certain gauge string can help increase comfort. This might take some chopping and changing until you meet your match.
Remember, a professional technician is on hand to offer support. A set up is a great way to customize a guitar to suit you and your distinct playing inclinations.
Comfort and playability walk hand in hand. If you’re comfortable when you’re playing, playability will increase. When at ease, there’ll be fewer signs of physical fatigue. This all adds up to make playing the guitar all that more enjoyable.
All guitars will have different nuances in sound. So certain guitars are commonplace in a specific genre. Take the Telecaster, for example, it’s a country go to because of its twang.
Manufacturers take care when deciding which wood to use. Different woods will create varying subtleties in sound.
Pickups are the guitar’s heartbeat that captures the energy. They will affect the sound of the guitar and you can opt for a modern or vintage approach.
Guitarists take years honing their rig. It isn’t solely the guitar. There are amps to consider. This is before even contemplating the array of guitar pedals available.
But the guitar is the beginning of the journey. And it will send you on your way to forging your sound.
So what guitarists are trying to replicate? Have a look at which guitars they have in their armory.
How much a guitar costs can be the deciding factor in your selection of guitars. Not everyone has a few thousand bucks to spend on a guitar.
Get yourself a budget and stick to it, but prepare yourself to be realistic. With a few hundred dollars at your disposal, you won’t get yourself a vintage original.
But here’s the thing. While you might not get an original with your budget. For under $500, you can get a good quality guitar that replicates one.
Recap of the Best Intermediate Electric Guitars
|Intermediate Electric Guitar||Best For|
|PRS SE Standard 24||Editor’s Pick|
|Epiphone Les Paul Studio||Best Single Cut|
|ESP LTD EC-256||Best for Metal|
|Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Stratocaster||Best for Blues|
|Ibanez Steve Vai Signature JEMJR||Best for Shredding|
|Sterling by Music Man JP70||Best 7-String|
|Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster||Best for Country|
|Ibanez S521||Best for Small Hands|
|Epiphone SG Standard||Best for Classic Rock|
|Epiphone ES-335||Best Semi-Hollow Body|
There we have it—the best electric guitars for intermediate players.
There’s something for everyone on this list, regardless of genre.
While you might be at an intermediate level. These select guitars will perform to higher standards. Consider them a long-term investment ready for the road and bracing for your technical progress.
While it’s tempting. Don’t fall for cheap alternatives. Yeah, you might initially save a few bucks. But in the long term, they won’t cut it.
I hope this article has given you the wisdom and faith to find the guitar that’s right for you.